Where will you get the necessary calibre and volume of mentors?
I want to see far greater use of mentors at the prison gate meeting offenders on their release. Under our reforms providers managing offenders in the community will be paid for their success at turning lives around. I expect to see innovative solutions, including increased mentoring and support for offenders. Whilst it will be for CRCs to determine how mentoring is managed I anticipate this will be done through a combination of experienced probation officers, former offenders working with current offenders and the skills to be found in the voluntary sector.
42. Prison population
There is a tension between the increase in offenders returning to custody which will be the clearly signposted consequence of the new provisions regarding to short prison sentences and breaches and your desire to reduce the overall numbers of those within the prison system. This will impose significant strain upon the entire prison system. Do you recognise this?
The reoffending rate of offenders released from short custodial sentences is currently too high.That means these offenders are already part of the prison population because they commit new offences shortly after release and will often be sentenced to further custody. I want to grip these offenders by supervising them in the community, working on their offending behaviour and stopping them reoffending. I want to use new powers to ensure offenders comply with this work and only as a last resort do we imagine recalling them to custody.
43. Estates strategy
What incentive is there for the CRCs to co-locate? The expectation that they share rental costs for buildings where rents tend to be high, will drive CRCs to obtain their own estates whilst leaving NPS with greater costs and unused properties. This will also increase the amount of locations partners and service users will need to go to.
We have been clear that the owners of CRCs will need to ensure that their estates strategy is consistent with their objectives to deliver the requirements of the courts and reduce reoffending. Longer term future arrangements will depend on the operating models of the future CRC owners. As collaborative working between NPS staff and CRC staff is critical to the successful delivery of services, should CRCs elect to make their own property arrangements they will be required to make accommodation space available to key NPS staff to enable co-location. It will be for the bidders for the CRCs to demonstrate in their bids how their proposed estate solution will enable them to deliver rehabilitation services in an effective way.
44. PO role in prisons
I have read the NOMS document on The Probation Role in OMU in Public Sector Prisons (PSP). My understanding is that the plan is for Prison SO/OS grade staff to be supported by a Custody Probation Officer whose role will be ˜Quality Assurance, Advice and Guidance and oversight”. You have said the transition to this role is 18 months. Do you believe this is workable in London with the low staffing levels in Prison? Would the new Custody P.O be expected to step in if staffing was low and cover OS tasks? Would it be desirable to have the PO retaining OS responsibility for the most dangerous Prisoners?
The implementation of this new model will be managed carefully. A programme of recruitment for permanent Prison Officers is well under way, to ensure all vacancies are filled by March 2015. In addition, NOMS is in the process of recruiting "reserves" – former officers who will support (not replace) the current permanent workforce and supplement new recruits joining through the summer. They will initially work in establishments where we have substantial vacancies. While London prisons are currently carrying a number of vacancies, we are working on the basis that these vacancies will be filled, ensuring sufficient capacity to deliver the Offender Supervision model and develop our staff over time.
45. Engagement workers
Are there any plans to develop the role of Engagement Workers? If their employment has been beneficial in London LDUs will more of them be recruited nationally?
Are there any plans to recruit Engagement Workers nationally?
Will the newly created role of Engagement Worker be taken up nationally?
I am very clear about the need for new providers to innovate. Engagement Workers are a really positive initiative started by London Probation Trust to use the knowledge of ex-offenders in supporting others to change. There are similar models in other areas of the country. The Engagement Workers have been transferred to the London CRC. It is for the CRC to decide how they build on this model. We have been clear throughout the reforms that we want to see an increased role for mentors, including ex-offenders, within the system.
46. Use of Tier 2/3 providers
With regards to providers, and the issues that the Work Programme encountered with the creaming and parking of tier three providers, how will you ensure that this does not happen?
I believe our published contractual documentation embeds our Market Stewardship principles robustly. These principles will focus on ensuring fair, reasonable and transparent treatment aligned to best industry practice of all those involved in the direct and indirect provision of services.
This includes both the Tier 1 main contracts and an Industry Standard Partnering Agreement (ISPA). This must be used between the Tier 1 providers and the supply chain where the supply chain has completed the registration process. In addition, providers will be required to gain MoJ/NOMS consent prior to changing any of its material subcontractors once contracts are let. The competition process requires that all bidders set out how they will apply the Market Stewardship principles in their proposals. Review of these proposals is part of the evaluation of bids.
47. Corporate support staff
What about admin staff? How do you plan to support the ones that are less paid and under valued? When will wages be going up?
The NNC unions (Napo and UNISON) submitted a pay claim to the Probation Association (representing the employers) on 6 May. This claim will be considered by the new employers (NPS and CRCs) and a response made to the unions in due course, after which there will be an opportunity for negotiation. Any pay award will need to comply with government pay policy.
What will happen when a SFO (Serious Further Offence) occurs due to TR and systems not being in place (and they are not).
Public protection is our priority and while I am determined to have the best possible systems in place to supervise offenders in the community, risk can never be entirely eliminated. All Serious Further Offences are subject to a full and thorough independent review to see what lessons can be learned for the future.
49. Fining offenders
Will the government put any restrictions on companies charging or fining offenders supervised under their contracts as happens with some of the international bidders?
There are no plans to allow fining of offenders by CRCs.
The suggested pay rise of 11% is expected in May 2015. Is this still going ahead?
Will staff be getting annual pay rises?
I do not recognise this figure and it does not feature in the trade unions’ pay claim for 2014-15. Existing arrangements with regard to entitlement to an annual pay review will continue. Any pay award will need to comply with government pay policy.